Whether you are a fan of Christmas or you feel more like the Grinch, it cannot be denied that Christmas generates a lot of waste with all of the food, gifts, and decorations.
As a professor in the marketing department and online instructor at Johnson & Wales University, I think about this a lot. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, Americans throw away about 25% more trash than the rest of the year— about one million extra tons per week. On average, 30 million trees are cut down to produce wrapping paper and another 15 million trees are chopped down for Christmas use.
This year, rethink your holidays to include mindful practices. Here’s how.
1. Simplify gift giving for your family. Put the names of all adult family members in a hat and have each family member choose a name.
2. Make purchases wisely. Give gifts with purpose and meaning, such as donating money to a charity in someone’s name.
3. Give gifts of memberships, gift certificates, tickets, or subscriptions. People remember experiences a lot longer than another pair of gloves or a plastic toy.
4. Shop local. Many towns host “main street strolls” this time of year. It’s the perfect opportunity to buy from independent retailers.
5. Think about re-gifting. Did you not open any gifts that you received during the year or last Christmas? There’s nothing wrong with re-gifting to someone who would appreciate it.
6. Donate old toys. When you are cleaning out your kids' toys before Christmas, consider donating to local hospitals or shelters. Plastic just fills the landfill!
7. Make handmade gifts. You can personalize ornaments, make a batch of cookies, make wreaths, and more. There are many options.
8. Go green with your décor. Use smaller light presentations, LED, or solar lights for your house and yard because they are more energy efficient. Use timers to turn lights off consistently
9. Choose a live Christmas tree. Once you’re done with it for the season, you can plant it or mulch it. Also, if you cut down a tree it is more sustainable than using a PVC tree. Plastic Christmas trees do not last forever and eventually get thrown out.
10. Use wrapping paper alternatives or buy recycled paper. Half of the paper America consumes each year is used to wrap and decorate consumer products. Avoid the glossy foil or metallic wrap because it is very difficult to recycle. Think about wrapping the gift with a reusable item—wrap a book with a scarf or wrap a candle with a kitchen towel.
11. Consider your food offerings. While shopping for your holiday meal, look for things labeled “organic,” “local,” and “free-range.” Grass-fed meat and locally grown vegetables will be delicious!
12. Avoid individual beverages in their own containers. These containers are going right into the landfill. Make a punch or have a large pot of hot chocolate on your stove.
13. Break out your china! The holidays are the perfect time to bring out the nice dishes and glasses. Do not use disposable tableware and flatware.
14. Use natural centerpieces. Pine wreaths and beeswax candles would look lovely.
There are many options available if you are hoping to reduce waste this holiday season. Find what works for you!
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